By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis on Wednesday sent a message to the Secretary-General of the Ibero-American Secretariat, Rebecca Grynspan Mayufis, and to all the Heads of State and Government participating at the 27th Ibero-American Summit.
The summit, which is taking place on Wednesday in Andorra, will see leaders from Latin American countries gather for discussions under the theme: “Innovation for Sustainable Development – Objective 2030.”
In his message, the Holy Father noted that the meeting falls in these particularly difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has demanded sacrifices from nations and their citizens, yet calls upon the entire international community to commit itself, in a spirit of responsibility and fraternity, to face the many already-existing challenges, and those yet to come.
All affected by the pandemic
Pope Francis drew attention to the millions of people who have died as a result of the pandemic, and those who are sick, noting that the health emergency has made no distinctions, affecting people of every culture, creed and socio-economic class.
“We all know and have felt the loss of someone close to us who has died from coronavirus, or who has suffered the effects of the contagion,” the Pope said, further highlighting the pain of families who have not been able to be close to their loved ones to offer them comfort, and the tragic impact the pandemic has had on children and young people.
In this regard, the Pope hailed the work of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, as well as chaplains and volunteers who, at the risk of their lives, have treated the sick and have also been the “families and friends” of those missing their loved ones.
Equal access to vaccines
Pope Francis went on to acknowledge the efforts in search of an effective vaccine against the Covid-19 virus in a short time. At the same time, he reiterated the appeal that extensive vaccination should be considered as a “universal common good” – a notion that requires concrete actions that inspire research, production and distribution of vaccines.
He also encouraged initiatives that create new forms of solidarity at the international level, with mechanisms that ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, not based purely on economic benefit, but rather considers the needs of all, including the vulnerable and the needy.
International debt reform
The Pope also seized the opportunity to point out the need for particular consideration to be given to reforming the international debt architecture as an integral part of our response to the ongoing pandemic.
On this issue, he called for the renegotiation of the debt burden of the poorer countries in order to help them to develop, and to have access to vaccines, health, education and employment.
The Pope insisted, however, that such a gesture “must be accompanied by the implementation of sound economic policies and good governance that reaches the poorest.”
Pope Francis also highlighted the urgency of taking measures that allow access to external financing through special drawing rights which call for greater solidarity among countries, so that the funds can be used to promote economic development and ensure that “everyone can emerge from the current situation with the best chance of recovery.”
Towards a better post-pandemic society
“On several occasions, I have pointed out that we must emerge from this pandemic ‘better’,” Pope Francis stressed, “because the current crisis is an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the person and the economy to help overcome the short-circuit of death that lives everywhere and at all times.”
To achieve this, the Holy Father called for a model of recovery capable of generating new, more inclusive and sustainable solutions aimed at the universal common good, as well as a horizon of expectations where the protection of human life is at the center, as opposed to economic profit.
At the same, he notes that none of this will be possible without “a strong political will that has the courage to change things, especially priorities” in order to ensure that the poor do not pay the highest cost of the challenges facing the human family.
Concluding his message, Pope Francis expressed his wishes for the success of the Ibero-American summit and invoked God’s blessing on its participants, as well as the people they represent.